Lightning vs. Panthers Game 5 Odds, Prediction, Preview: Reigning Champs Look to Advance (May 24)

Lightning vs. Panthers Game 5 Odds, Prediction, Preview: Reigning Champs Look to Advance (May 24) article feature image
Credit:

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Nikita Kucherov (right).

  • The defending-champion Lightning look to close their series against the Panthers on Monday night in Sunrise.
  • Florida appears to be turning to a 20-year-old goaltender with four games of NHL experience because its top-two netminders have struggled so far against Tampa Bay.
  • Pete Truszkowski breaks down the betting value in the Game 5 matchup below.

Lightning vs. Panthers Odds

Lightning Odds -108
Panthers Odds -108
Over/Under 6
Time Monday, 8 p.m. ET
TV CNBC
Odds as of Sunday night and via DraftKings

The Florida Panthers had a chance to even the series on Saturday afternoon in Tampa. However, the Lightning asserted their dominance in a 6-2 game that was never even particularly close. The Panthers now return home to Sunrise facing elimination in a must-win Game 5 on Monday night.

While the underlying metrics point to a very even series thus far, Tampa Bay has the advantage for two game-breaking factors that often defy the numbers. The Lightning have gotten impressive contributions from their star players, while the Panthers’ goaltending situation could only be described as a mess.

Will Florida be able to overcome these issues to prolong this series? Let’s break it down.

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Tampa is Full Strength and Dangerous

The Lightning had a solid but unspectacular, by their standards, regular season. They had the eighth best record in the league while ranking 12th in expected goal rate and 5-on-5 goal differential.

However, as often is the case with elite teams, they were biding their time until the postseason. For the Lightning, that was even more obvious than normal.

Steven Stamkos missed the last month of the season due to injury, which limited him to just 38 games. However, more notably, former league MVP Nikita Kucherov missed the entire season after being placed on long-term injured reserve due to a combination of a hip injury and salary-cap reasons.

Neither has missed a beat in this series, stepping into action seamlessly. Stamkos has two goals and six points through four games and has been a big part of the success of his linemate, Alex Killorn, who has three goals and seven points himself. Along with Anthony Cirelli, the line has played to nearly a 52% expected goal rate.

Stamkos has been outdone by Kucherov, who had a four-point game in Game 4 that saw him score once with three assists. He has nine points in the series thus far. Kucherov has been particularly dangerous with the man advantage, with which he has six points. It’s no surprise that Tampa Bay has seven power-play goals in this series on just 15 opportunities.

It’s worth noting that Kucherov is questionable for Game 5 after leaving Sunday’s game after taking a slash from Anthony Duclair. It doesn’t sound like a serious injury, but at this time of the year we likely won’t know Kucherov’s status until pregame warmups. Mikhail Sergachev is also questionable on the backend for the Lightning.

Florida’s Goaltending Carousel

If you’ve lost track of who’s between the pipes for the Florida Panthers in this series, you’re not alone.

Sergei Bobrovsky started the first game despite having a worse regular season than Chris Driedger. In Florida’s Game 1 loss, Bobrovsky was beaten five times.

Coach Joel Quenneville turned to Driedger in Game 2 and he performed admirably but was outdueled by Andrei Vasilevskiy. Dridger got the net again in Game 3 but was pulled after the second period after allowing five goals in the middle stanza. Bobrovsky ended up getting the win in relief without allowing a goal.

Naturally, Quenneville went back to Bobrovsky in Game 4. Bobrovsky was beaten twice on the first three shots he faced on his way to ultimately allowing five goals in less than half a game. Bobrovsky was again replaced by Driedger midway through the second period.

So through four games, both Driedger and Bobrovsky have made two starts. Both goalies have been pulled midway through a game. Bobrovsky has a -4.0 goals saved above expectation mark while Dridger hasn’t been much better, posting a -2.8 mark.

So which way will Quenneville turn in the must-win Game 5, toward Bobrovsky or Driedger? How about none of the above.

Spencer Knight was in the starter’s net at Florida’s practice on Sunday, which means he’ll likely get the call for the Cats on Monday. Knight is just 20 years old with four NHL appearances and three starts on his resume. The former first-round pick was playing college hockey in March.

Knight has performed well in his limited NHL action and he has an impressive pedigree, but the dangers of turning to a kid in this spot are obvious. Then again, it’s not like he could be much worse than the other two options have been.

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Lightning vs. Panthers Best Bet

I’ve been a proponent of the Panthers through most of the series because there has been value in betting on them as underdogs. However, with elimination staring them in the face, a kid between the pipes and the line set as a pick’em, I’m not sure that value still exists.

The Lightning closed as -152 favorites for Game 4. Currently, they sit at just -108 for this one. Obviously, the line is adjusted for the change in venue as the Lightning hit the road, but with elite teams like Tampa Bay, home-ice advantage isn’t worth that much.

I can see valuing home-ice that highly for a more average team with an extraordinary home-ice experience like the Predators. However, the Lightning are an elite team both at home and on the road. In the last three regular seasons with fans in the stands, the Lightning finished with a top-five road record in each season. Additionally, they also have a better road playoff winning percentage than at home since 2017.

At this line, I can’t pass on backing the Lightning here. These teams might be equal in terms of skaters, but even that might be kind to the Panthers. However, the goaltending disparity between Vasilevskiy and Knight (or whoever starts for the Panthers) is in itself worthy of a bet at this line. I’d bet the Lightning at -115 or better.

Pick: Lightning -108 (play to -115)

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